-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Gay, lesbian or bisexual
teens are more vulnerable to homelessness than their heterosexual
peers, new study results show.
Researchers from Children's Hospital Boston found that
one-quarter of gay and lesbian high school students are homeless,
and these homeless teens are more likely to be on their own,
without the support or supervision of their parents or
"Prior studies in homeless street youth have found that sexual minorities occur in much higher numbers than we'd expect based on their numbers in the community in general," the study's first author, Heather Corliss, of the division of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children's Hospital Boston, said in a hospital news release.
"The high risk of homelessness among sexual minority teens is a serious problem requiring immediate attention," she added. "These teens face enormous risks and all types of obstacles to succeeding in school and are in need of a great deal of assistance."
In conducting the study, published in the July 21 online edition
American Journal of Public Health, researchers examined two years of survey data to assess the homeless status and sexual orientation of 6,317 public high school students in Massachusetts.
Overall, the study found that less than 5 percent of students
said they were gay, lesbian or bisexual. This small percentage of
students, however, accounted for 19 percent of those who reported
Although only 3.2 percent of strictly heterosexual students were
homeless, that percentage jumped for gay, lesbian or bisexual
teens. Homelessness was reported by 25 percent of lesbian and gay
students, 15 percent of bisexual students and 12.5 percent of
heterosexual teens who admitted to having same-sex partners.
Additionally, 20 percent of students who said they were unsure of
their sexual orientation said they were homeless, the survey
Among the homeless teens, those who were not exclusively
heterosexual were less likely to be living with their family. Among
boys who said they were gay, 15 percent were homeless and without
their parents or guardians, and 8 percent were homeless along with
their parents. Among lesbian girls, 22.5 percent were homeless and
without their parents or guardians, and 3.8 percent were homeless
along with their parents. The trend extended to bisexual students,
heterosexuals who had same-sex partners, and boys confused about
"Teens with a sexual minority orientation are more likely than heterosexual teens to be unaccompanied and homeless rather than part of a homeless family," said Corliss. "This suggests that they may be more likely to be mistreated or rejected by their families and more likely to leave home."
The study authors hope that the findings shed light on the issue
of homelessness among gay, lesbian and bisexual teens, and raise
awareness among school officials, teachers and high school
counselors. They pointed out that the general risks associated with
homelessness, such as physical and sexual abuse, mental health
problems, substance use problems and sexual risk behaviors, are
even greater for vulnerable teenagers who have no support or
In addition, the authors noted that their findings are limited
to Massachusetts, which could underestimate the number of homeless
gay, lesbian or bisexual teens across the country. The study also
could not take into account teens absent from school on the day the
survey took place, and teens who did not answer the survey honestly
about their sexual orientation.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
provides more information on
gay, lesbian and bisexual teens.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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